Here in Philadelphia, summer seems to have come early. Most of my favorite New Jersey U-picks (which they insist on calling “Pick Your Own”) have opened, and the deluge of fruit has begun. Last weekend’s haul included 15 pounds of strawberries and about 20 pounds of sweet cherries. Sour cherries should be ready in a couple of weeks. So. Where do I go, and what do I do with this stuff?
My favorite strawberry farm, Gaventa’s, no longer offers U-pick. Waaaah. My next favorite strawberry farm, Mood’s, apparently isn’t offering strawberries this year, but plans to open for other fruit picking in mid-June. That left Johnson’s, a weirdly tourist-y place in Medford that I don’t particularly recommend as a “farm experience” (enforced hayrides = bad, in my book), but the price was right ($1.75/pound for more than 10 pounds) and the berries were DELICIOUS. But here’s the kicker: they wanted $4.95 for pick-your-own cherries. Um, no.
For that, we headed over to Rowand’s Farm in Glassboro. Now this is a U-pick I can live with. The proprietors sit in lawn chairs and hand you plastic buckets. Sweet cherries are $1.65/pound. They also have strawberries, but I can’t vouch for them, having already gorged myself at Johnson’s. But there’s a catch: they’re closed on Saturdays.
Once you bring all that fruit home, then you have to do something with it. Some options and recommendations from last year’s blog:
Freeze it, individually (not particularly recommended, but convenient) or in sugar
Make endless jars of jam, including my favorite, cherry raspberry
Can it with rhubarb
Combine it with lemons for a marmalade
Stash it in syrup
Julia over at What Julia Ate highly recommends drowning fruit in alcohol and straining the remains to make liqueur. This is a new one for me, so no results yet. But I’ll keep you posted.
Happy picking and preserving!